Annual Reviews Electronic Back Volume Collection 1932-2001ff
Mechanical Engineering, Materials Science, Production Engineering, Mining and Metallurgy, Traffic Engineering, Precision Mechanics
Race car performance depends on elements such as the engine, tires, suspension, road, aerodynamics, and of course the driver. In recent years, however, vehicle aerodynamics gained increased attention, mainly due to the utilization of the negative lift (downforce) principle, yielding several important performance improvements. This review briefly explains the significance of the aerodynamic downforce and how it improves race car performance. After this short introduction various methods to generate downforce such as inverted wings, diffusers, and vortex generators are discussed. Due to the complex geometry of these vehicles, the aerodynamic interaction between the various body components is significant, resulting in vortex flows and lifting surface shapes unlike traditional airplane wings. Typical design tools such as wind tunnel testing, computational fluid dynamics, and track testing, and their relevance to race car development, are discussed as well. In spite of the tremendous progress of these design tools (due to better instrumentation, communication, and computational power), the fluid dynamic phenomenon is still highly nonlinear, and predicting the effect of a particular modification is not always trouble free. Several examples covering a wide range of vehicle shapes (e.g., from stock cars to open-wheel race cars) are presented to demonstrate this nonlinear nature of the flow field.
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